Jack Shafer in Slate is bemoaning the idea that the US Government might actually start enforcing the laws against disclosure of classified information:
Under the espionage statute, continues Johnston, “a government official or a private citizen who passed classified information to anyone else in or outside the government could potentially be charged with a felony, if they transferred the information to someone without a security clearance to receive it.”
National-security reporters—none of whom have clearances—receive classified information for a living. If the government used espionage law to investigate government leaks to the press, the effect would be an unofficial secrets act criminalizing thousands, if not tens of thousands, of annual conversations between sources and reporters.
Shafer goes on to bemoan how awful this would be, noting,
For one thing, no Department of Defense, National Security Council, Department of State, or White House staffer with security clearances would ever speak—on or off the record—to any reporter about any sensitive topic. The sheer legal exposure would prove too much. Knowing they’re explicitly liable for indictment, they’ll just stop talking to reporters.
Well, damnit, good. I’ve got news for you, Jack–what they’re doing is already illegal. Right or wrong, it’s the law, and they’re breaking it every time they leak something that’s classified to a newspaper employee.
Speaking as just one of the multitudes of “little people” with security clearances who’re regularly reminded of the severe legal penalties for just making an honest mistake in failing to protect classified information (never mind deliberately revealing anything), I can’t say I feel any sympathy for the bigger wigs in D.C. who just as regularly commit violations that would put me in jail.
The law applies to everybody equally–or at least it ought to. Pat Leahy, Dick Shelby, Sandy-freakin’-Berger and everybody who works for them ought to face the same jeopardies I do when it comes to protecting this information, and if Jack Shafer and “national security reporters” don’t like it, tough.
You want to try and change those laws and/or their penalties, go right ahead. It’s a free country. But don’t sit there and tell me the “big boys” deserve the special privilege they’ve been getting from federal prosecutors who don’t want to cross the press.